What is the value of moving file servers to SharePoint Online or OneDrive?

I was recently asked “How can I help convince my leadership that moving files from on-premises file servers to M365 (SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams) is the right move to make?”

In my opinion, migrating files to the cloud will improve both compliance and security, productivity, and IT Operations.

Compliance benefits

  • eDiscovery – search everything – emails, files in SharePoint, files in OneDrive, files in teams, etc – all from one search interface. How do you accomplish that today with file shares? 
  • DLP – protect everything – in a single DLP policy! Audit, Encrypt, Block, Policy Tips, etc.
  • Retention – Retain or Delete, how easy is that to do in a file share? In the cloud, it is a few mouse clicks to enable retention.

Security benefits

  • Ransomware rollback protection. If ransomware encrypts a file, you can roll back to the previous version. While this is possible with on-premises SAN/NAS technology, those on-premises solutions are vulnerable to cyberattack – if the attacker can sign into the SAN or NAS they can (and have often) deleted those snapshots and backups. Whereas in the cloud, the versions are essentially ‘immutable’ when a retention policy is in place, which allows you to restore to a prior version of the file.
  • Auditing. Who changed that file? Who shared that file? Who deleted that file? Who moved that file? Who has accessed that file? How easy is it for you to answer these questions on a file share today?  M365 provides a web interface to search audit logs, whereas in on-premises you need a way to scrape that from event viewer. Event viewer can be purged whereas the audit logs in M365 are immutable. 
  • Patching – who is patching your file shares? Do you do it immediately when security updates are released? What if Microsoft handled that for you when you move your files into the cloud? You get your nights and weekends back!  Let Microsoft be responsible for patching their servers!

User Productivity benefits

  • Collaboration – your users can simultaneously edit files with a dozen people changing the spreadsheet at the same time. You can’t do that on a file share today.
  • Mobility. Users can access their documents on the go from their mobile phones! Can’t do that with file shares today.
  • External sharing. Users can more easily share large documents, whereas today when they try to share a file, if it is too large, the email bounces back and the user will then often use their personal DropBox account to send large files.

IT Benefits

  • Storage doubles every 18 months. Instead of purchasing more SAN storage next year, just move it to the cloud. EACH USER gets 5 Terabytes in OneDrive – PER USER!! That’s an incredible amount of scalability. 
  • Laptop Backups. Similar to above, if you are not backing up a laptop today, and the user loses it or it is stolen, or the hard drive crashes, then this can be improved by moving the data to the cloud and then configuring synchronization to the laptop, so that files are continuously backed up. For example, the user’s “U:\ Drive” or wherever they store files on a file share today – those should be moved to OneDrive and then synced to laptops for continuous backups.
  • Disaster Recovery, High Availability – BUILT IN. How do you do this today? Do you replicate your SAN storage off site? That means your storage costs are DOUBLE, or TRIPLE if you do an offline backup. In the cloud, all that is handled for you – replicated to multiple data centers, backed up, etc
  • Upgrades. No more worries about expensive upgrades from 2008 R2 to 2012, then a few years later, upgrading again to 2016… to 2019.. it’s endless!  All that goes away.

Those are just a few of the benefits of migrating file shares to SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business or Teams. I did not do any research, those are literally off the top of my head. I am sure I could come up with a lot more if I had the time!

I recommend checking out Alex Field’s article “The File Rules of Fields” or File Server Migrations to Microsoft 365. https://www.itpromentor.com/five-rules-of-fields/

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